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Belgian Foreign Minister and EU Justice Nominee Probed Over Corruption

With European Union banks overrun with money laundering scandals, the murders of journalists in Malta and Slovakia still unresolved, and the rule of law teetering in Hungary and Poland, the pick to be the bloc’s new Justice Minister – Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders – is being probed over a corruption case.
The state prosecutor’s office in Brussels confirmed he was being looked at in connection with claims made by a former member of the country’s intelligence services about alleged corruption and money laundering in the Democratic Republic of Congo, The Financial Times said.
That could put his confirmation by the European Parliament in jeopardy at the same time several other selections as top officials by incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are also facing claims of wrongdoing or ties to authoritarian governments. Von der Leyen herself is due to be questioned by Germany’s Parliament over allegations of misspending and mismanagement during her tenure at the Defense Ministry.
Reynders is perhaps the most delicate matter for her and the EU now as he would inherit long-stalled overviews of the killings of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta – which Moneyval said is a money-laundering haven – and Jan Kuciak in Slovakia, both of whom were investigating corruption at the highest levels of government.
The official inquiries — first reported by Belgium’s L’Echo and De Tijd newspapers — are still at an early stage. So far, credibility to the claims remain to be confirmed, but they come at an awkward timing, with the new EU Commission to take effect on November 1.
Neither Reynders nor his staff have made any comment but the Belga news agency reported he denied any wrongdoing and didn’t even know he was being investigated. The EU Justice Commissioner is also tasked with upholding member countries to insure the independence of the court systems.
In making the nomination, von der Leyen wrote to him that, “I want you to focus on tighter enforcement, using recent judgments of the (European) Court of Justice showing the impact of rule-of-law breaches on EU law as a basis.”
The EU has been particularly worried about erosion of independence for the judiciary in Poland, although former Polish Prime Minister is President of the European Council, comprising the heads of governments of the 28 countries in the bloc.
The former secret agent who made the complaint went to Belgian police earlier this year with L’Echo and De Tijd reporting the claims were about alleged payments from an arms dealer and a Presidential candidate in the African country as well as alleged corruption linked to the building of Belgium’s embassy in the capital Kinshasa.

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